Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a UN Security Council Briefing on Russia’s War Against Ukraine

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ly1UV7mCPZQ

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
US Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
November 16, 2022

As delivered

Thank you, Mr. President. And Under-Secretary-General DiCarlo, thank you for your valuable briefing today.

Colleagues, I would like to begin by noting the tragic explosion that killed two people in Poland near the Ukrainian border. We express our deepest condolences to the loved ones of the murdered Polish citizens. As President Biden told President Duda last night, we stand with Poland at this difficult moment and offer our full support and assistance to Poland’s investigation to determine exactly what happened. We have full confidence in the Polish government’s investigation and appreciate a calm, careful and measured response.

While we still don’t know all the facts, we do know one thing: This tragedy would never have happened but for Russia’s unwarranted invasion of Ukraine and its recent missile attacks against Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure.

The UN Charter is clear – Ukraine has every right to defend itself against this aggression. Protect its sovereignty. Protect its territorial integrity. More than 90 missiles were fired at Kyiv and other targets in Ukraine, destroying civilian infrastructure. In fact, it may have been the most widespread missile attack since the beginning of the war. Now, millions of Ukrainians are without heat or electricity. We extend our solidarity with the Ukrainian people for the fallout from this attack and express our deepest condolences for the lives lost.

This is a deliberate ploy by Putin. He seems to have decided that if he cannot conquer Ukraine by force, he will try to subjugate the country. It is hard to overstate how terrifying these attacks are.

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When I was in Ukraine last week, I saw firsthand the tremendous suffering that attacks like this and this war have inflicted on the Ukrainian people and Europe more broadly. I know we’ve all seen photos of cratered playgrounds, bombed-out hospitals and destroyed homes across Ukraine. But no photograph can capture the real lives affected by the immense human toll of Russia’s war against a UN member state.

I felt that toll when I spoke to a mother in Kyiv who had to hold her daughter’s lifeless, bloody hand after a Russian attack on her apartment building. Her daughter, in her mother’s words, “wanted to go to school.”

I experienced that toll when I met a humanitarian aid worker who had been detained and tortured by Russian forces. She was so shocked that she was only able to share a part of the horror she experienced, the rest could not be put into words.

I experienced that toll when I met Melina, a 10-year-old girl living in a facility where displaced families gathered to prepare for the bitterly cold winter. The facility was once hit by Russian missiles and damaged.

I was there to announce more humanitarian funding from the United States to provide supplies and support as Russia prepares to winter arm. I made that announcement in the dark during the blackout caused by the Russian attack.

Later, I asked Melina what she would do after the war was over. And I could tell it was something she had given some thought to. She said, simply, that she wanted to see her best friend, whom she had not seen since the beginning of the war. And I must say I wonder if she will ever see her friend again.

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Colleagues, when I met President Zelensky, his message was simple: he wants peace. He told me that he wants a just peace based on the UN Charter and its principles, which everyone in this Council is here to uphold and defend. We cannot say the same for Russia. As Secretary Blinken told this Council, “If Russia stops this war today, the war will end. If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine will end.

Ukrainian citizens are at risk. It targets the electricity grids of Ukrainian citizens, who are unsure how they will stay warm throughout the winter. Ukrainian citizens suffer.

One man in Moscow is sitting comfortably trying to stop this brutal, horrible war right now. This second. But until he does, we must address not only the scale of the humanitarian and human rights crisis unfolding in Ukraine, but also the ongoing spillover effects of this unnecessary war. Look at the great damage done by Russia’s escalation of the global food security crisis.

Colleagues, if you are looking for a practical way to reduce tensions and help those in need, it is by supporting and securing the expansion of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. According to UN documents, about 500 ships will carry 10 million metric tons of grains and other food items under this initiative. This is enough to feed crores of people. The Black Sea Grain Initiative has helped stabilize food markets, with reports that prices have fallen to pre-war levels. Two-thirds of the wheat exported under the initiative went to the Global South. But the deadline to renew the contract is fast approaching.

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When I was in Kyiv, I visited Kanaj and asked farmers that this agreement needs to be extended so they can have the confidence to plant their wheat and continue to serve as a breadbasket for the developing world. I could hear the frustration in his voice and I assured him that I would relay his message back to the Security Council.

Russia must expand this essential, life-saving system. Russia should allow these ships to feed the world. And I call on our fellow Council members to make the same calls with the same urgency to keep the deal alive.

In the long run, the only way to ensure that the food supply is not further affected is for Russia to withdraw its troops, stop the atrocities and end the war. But in the meantime, we are grateful for the efforts of Turkey and the UN in sustaining and expanding this life-saving initiative. And I sincerely hope that we can continue to strive – with Ukraine in the driver’s seat – towards a just and lasting peace.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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